Structural Biology of Cell Migration
In order to study the molecular organization of mechanisms that control cell migration we develop approaches that combine in situ structural biology via cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) with functional cell biology assays.
Specifically, we are interested in the structure of actin-regulatory proteins and the spatiotemporal organization of the actin cytoskeleton in migrating cells, and in cases where pathogens exploit actin-related host mechanisms. For example, it is not yet clear precisely how the 3D-arrangement of individual filaments in actin networks, and hence its influence on cell migration characteristics, is dependent on the activity and redundancy of actin-associated proteins. We also try to obtain a structural understanding of the reciprocal interactions of cells with their environment, i.e. when residing in a complex, 3-dimensional setting.
In order to structurally elucidate the molecular details underlying these processes we employ and actively develop state-of-the-art correlative light and electron microscopy (CLEM), cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) methods and image processing techniques. This includes devising workflows for the facilitated quantitative analysis of filament networks in cryo-ET data and our efforts towards facilitating EM specimen preparation, by introducing 3D-printed EM specimen grid holders.
We then combine our cryo-ET methods in an interdisciplinary approach with cell biology, biophysics and biochemistry.